So, for whatever reason, as the result of your divorce, you no longer see your child(ren) every day. No doubt it breaks your heart and you struggle to figure out how you are supposed to be a positive role model for your child when you were not granted primary custody.
After your initial grieving over the facts of your circumstances, you need to decide to be strong and come up with a plan on how you will be involved as the non-custodial parent. No, it won't be easy, but it will be worth it. Communicating with your child in today's high-tech world should be fairly easy. In fact, communication, is the key word!
Communicate with your child, via regularly scheduled telephone calls. Some families prefer this; others do not. Some feel that having a schedule is too impersonal; others feel it makes it easy to know when a call will be coming so the child(ren) can be near the phone and ready to talk. If your kids are fairly young, you should consider calling every evening to help ease the pain of your separation. If your family prefers not to schedule phone calls, be sure to call at least twice or three times a week. If you are unsuccessful in talking with your kids, leave a nice, loving message on their voicemail or answering machine. Even if your kids (especially pre-teens or teenagers) seem annoyed by the messages, at least in the end they may recognize that you were thinking about them and caring about what was going on in their lives.
Now that you're not in the home with your children, be sure to ask about what's going on in their everyday routines. For example, ask about their activities, their friends, and ask open-ended questions if they seem too preoccupied to speak with you. Although your children may not want to talk for long periods of time with you on the telephone and although this fact may tear at your heartstrings, try to recognize that having this open line of communication may be the factor that makes it easy for your kids to talk to you in later years if and when problems occur in their lives.
Gone are the days of only being able to speak on a landline telephone! You can always contact your children on their cell phones, even by texting them. If you know they have a big test on a certain day or a big game on a certain night, text them some lines of encouragement! You may or may not hear back from them, but your text may make the difference.
Communicating can be done in other ways as well. Send them a note card in the mail or a magazine article you think would interest them. Write them a letter. Send them an email, or Skype with them. Any form of communication with your children will show them that even though you don't live with them, you're still part of their family and you still care about them as much as you did prior to your divorce.
Try to keep the lines of communication open with your ex-spouse as well. This may be the hardest part for some people; however, it is essential for your children's sake. Many times the custodial parent will not allow the children to see the non-custodial parent when it's not a specified "visiting" day. Others even interfere with communication between their children and their ex. If this happens to you, speak with your ex when he or she is not in the company of your children. Explain why it is so important that you stay involved in your kids' lives, for them as well as for you. If you suspect your ex is running interference in your ability to see your children, request that you work with a professional to resolve your differences.
A Loving Relationship on Both Sides
Some things that you should know, and your ex should know as well: children of divorce are generally better adjusted to their situation when they have strong, loving relationships with both parents. Additionally, non-custodial parents are more likely to make consistent support payments, which is very important in being able to afford raising children.
So, how can you and your ex make this as easy as possible? There are several ways. Never argue or get into heated conflicts in the presence of your children. This can be hard; however, take the high road and walk away without saying a word. Stick to the visitation schedule to avoid inconsistent contact. There is nothing more heartbreaking to children than a parent not showing up as scheduled. Don't talk negatively to your child about your ex, ever. If you happen to speak of your ex to your child, make sure it's positive, a good memory, or something your child will remember that all of you did as a family. Don't question your child about your ex's whereabouts or who they're dating or where they went over the weekend. It's not your business, and it's not fair to expect your child to provide you with that type of information.
In the end, the key to successful parenting is in your hands and in your ex's hands.
Find the right balance and always remember to have your child's best interest in mind. If you are the custodial parent, don't withhold visiting or interfere with your child's contact with your ex. If you are the non-custodial parent, work at developing a strong relationship with your child. Don't be the "weekend" or "fun" parent. Finally, if the two of you can be consistent with your parenting styles, including rules, curfews, when homework should be completed, etc., you will all be better off.
If you are struggling as a non-custodial parent, whether it's because you don't know how to approach your new role or you feel devastated that you are even in this predicament, you may need to seek the help of a professional. The counselors at the Orange County Relationship Center are trained to help you work through these issues. Call us today at 949-220-3211 to make an appointment or use our online tool to set up a convenient time to see us.